Latest News From the Song of the Whale - 9.9.07

Sunday 9th September 2007
Written by Mat

Image_6885As dawn broke we had a few spots of rain. Storm clouds all around but blue sky above us as land approached. We followed the coast down towards the port of Souda on the north coast of the island of Crete. Only to be overtaken by our only sighting of a whale, yellow and painted on the side off a passenger ferry. As we came into the harbour we saw our friend, the yellow whale, moored nearby. Checking in through passport control was very straight forward, for Greece, only a few pieces of paper not many as before. The crew had a welcome break ashore while Magnus and myself checked over the engine after our breakdown two nights before. All was well and we left Souda early afternoon leaving our friend the yellow whale behind to continue our passage.

Monday 10th September 2007
Written by Claire

The wind has completely dropped away affording us some superb sighting conditions. We are up on the A-frame all day and have several dolphin sightings – both bottlenose dolphins and striped dolphins. They are only fleeting glimpses though – the dolphins here seem to be rather shy and after the original sighting they are usually only seen once or twice again before they disappear from view. None of the groups we see today come over to bow-ride. We have still had no sperm whale sounds on this leg, although for a large part of our trackline the water has been shallower than that typically preferred by sperm whales. Perhaps this is why we haven’t heard them.

Tuesday 11th September 2007
Written by Alessia

We continued the navigation to the North of Sea of Crete, Kritiko Pelagos. The night conceded us the pleasure to observe and to recognise stars and the Milky Way. The sea was totally flat - calm and peaceful. Only some whistles on the hydrophone in the night and early morning. At the lunch time we met a group of striped dolphins. They stayed with Song of the Whale long enogh for us to take some pictures and to watch them bow-ride: leaping, breaching around bow. The biggest animal of the group did a tail slap as if to say good bye and the group swam away.

Wednesday 12th September 2007
Written by Claire

The wind has been very favourable through the night and we are making excellent progress along the trackline, however we have to break off early and head for Diafani on the island of Karpathos where we are holding an open day tomorrow. We arrive in Karpathos at around 1730 and are met by Bridget from our team and some staff from MOm – the Hellenistic Society for the Protection of the monk seal. IFAW has been supporting MOm since 1990. They take us to see their visitor centre and show us a film documenting some of the work that they have been doing in the Sporades area to protect the monk seal. They are currently working on a new project called MOFI (Monk seal and fisheries- Mitigating the conflict in the Greek seas) which aims to mitigate the conflicts between seals and local fishermen. Karpathos is an important area for the monk seal – there are thought to be approximately 30 animals living in the area and they have around two pups a year. Although this doesn’t sound like many animals, when the world population is only 600 animals, this represents an important habitat.

Thursday 13th September 2007

Our open day begins bright and early with visits from the local children. We have four groups of them come on to have a look around the boat. We play them some of the sounds that we have recorded – the harbour porpoise is always a favourite - and show them pictures of what the different species of whale look like. When people visit they are always interested in how we live when we are at sea – where we store our food, what we eat, how we wash and so on. They are always surprised when they see the amount of fridges and freezers we have squeezed into a space as small as the galley! After the children have gone, we are taken to lunch in Olynpos with the deputy Mayor of the northern Karpathos region. The area is up in the mountains above Diafani. The area is still very traditional, with the women wearing traditional costume and carrying out many of the traditional crafts.

We are invited to see a house decorated in the traditional style of very brightly coloured cross-stitched wall hangings and cushion covers.

In the evening we are open to the public and have around 80 visitors – a good number for such a small place.

We head back out to sea tomorrow, but would like to take this opportunity to thank MOm, MOFI and the people of Diafani for making us so welcome.

Friday 14th September 2007
Written by Evelyn

Over night, while still tied to the pier in Diafani the wind picks up something ferocious. It gusts 40 knots so we have to keep a close eye on our lines throughout the night to make sure we don’t get blown away. In the morning we have to leave the pier to make room for the ferry so we set off pounding into the wind and lumpy sea. There is still some survey trackline remaining to be completed before heading to Rhodes for a crew change. However as we leave Diafani it is still undecided whether we will have time to do this last piece of trackline in the rough conditions with the wind against us. By the time we leave the shelter of Karpathos the wind begins to drop and it is decided to make a run for the trackline and try to complete as much as we can. So once again the hydrophones are deployed. Unfortunately it is still quite windy so conditions for visual sightings are poor and the roiling seas make it hazardous to climb the A-frame. The wind continues to gust into the night...

Saturday 15th September 2007
Written by Paul

Good news – the wind subsides enough for a comfortable sail through the remaining trackline between Karpathos and Rhodes. Sadly little by way of cetacean sightings or sounds but the ride remains smooth and steady as we roll into Lindhos Bay on the island of Rhodes. We arrive in mid afternoon with enough time to wash off the past couple of days' salt deposits, have an excellent meal (cooked by Aliki) and watch footage of the successful liberation of a sperm whale from set nets in Turkish waters and valuable work undertaken by Arda and colleagues on cetacean strandings in the Black Sea.

This leaves the final tracklines north to Rhodes town tomorrow morning to conclude our time aboard. And while we did not cach-e-lot (inner monologue: can I get away with that?) we gained fantastically rich and beneficial insight into the work of the SOTW.

Sunday 16th September 2007
Written by Claire

We finish the last 20 miles or so from Lindhos without incident- it is a very pleasant downwind sail in – and arrive at around 1300. We are met by Popi –who is coming with us on the next leg, and lives here in Rhodes town. Concerned that being Sunday we wouldn’t be able to get any shopping anywhere, her mum had cooked us an enormous feast, which was very gratefully received.

We will be in Rhodes until Wednesday, waiting for our crew for the next leg. While here we have some repairs to make to the hydrophone, as well as the usual shopping, washing and cleaning that is necessary at the end of a survey leg.

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